The Pride of Antwerp
BY Loann Halden
July 01 2009 12:00 AM ET
You tied the knot with Karl Heeren, a fellow police commissioner, in 2004. How did your families and the community react? I met Karl in 2000 when I became commissioner. He was also working in my division. When we became partners in 2001, we decided not to work together anymore, and he moved to another division. When I told my parents I was gay, they were fine with it from the first moment -- my mom told me she had always known. Karl's father was very disappointed at first, but after some time he asked Karl to invite me to come over to dinner. Karl was very nervous about that and told me not to talk about politics or his father's job. The whole evening I talked to Karl's father only about his job and politics and ... he accepted me from that moment as his new son. Our marriage was big news in Belgium. A chief commissioner and a commissioner who got married was never seen before. Our marriage was mentioned in newspapers in France and even in Turkey.
When visiting Antwerp, what are the best neighborhoods to meet LGBT locals? Antwerp has many places where you can meet LGBT locals. At the tourism office in the old town you can get a special LGBT map where visitors can find information about cafés, bars, restaurants, clubs, and even saunas.
Where is your favorite place in the city to unwind? We live very near to the Antwerp Zoo and it is a relaxing place to wander around. It feels like a beautiful garden in the middle of the city and has cozy areas to sit down and relax.
What do you love most about the city? Antwerp is the biggest little city in the world, where you can find everything within walking distance.
When in Antwerp, don't miss the following highlights:
New gay-owned restaurant Raven , serving classic and seasonal dishes from celebrated local gay chef Gert-Jan Raven. Located in Antwerp's main market, the stylish fine dining spot overlooks the old City Hall and Guild Houses.
Popi Café (Plantinkaai 11-12;), a favorite with an age-spanning LGBT crowd for its affordable drinks, relaxed vibe, summer terrace, and special whisky menu. This centrally located bar is the top stop before hitting the clubs.
Lunch by day and DJ grooves at night at Hessenhuis (Falconrui 59;), a small two-floor café/bar set in a 16th-century warehouse. Theme parties are in regular rotation.
Belgium's largest gay nightclub Red and Blue (Lange Schipperskapelstraat 13,), a European hot spot for 11 years. Owner Ludo Smits, queen mum of Antwerp's gays, presides over a sexy mix, from men-only Saturdays to the lesbian Café De Love party every second Sunday of the month.